Thursday, April 7, 2011

Production Groups: History Teamwork

Teamwork often involves a daunting assignment that is difficult for both the instructor and the students to get excited about. I suggest building a culture in your classroom of collaboration that is not usually tied to a grade so that when a group project is assigned the team experience is not foreign to anyone. For history classrooms, get students thinking about what historians do which is often researching a topic and producing something that communicates that to an audience whether that might be a website, museum display, journal article, or a TV show. Most of the time, historians do not do all the work alone and therefore work with a production group or team. A team is often more effective if each member has a defined role. The roles assigned might depend a bit on the type of project and depending on the size of a group some students might perform more than one role, but here are some of the roles you might consider.

1. Researcher-Not only locates reliable primary and secondary sources, but provides documentation of those sources for the final product.
2. Writer-Composes the text for the final product.
3. Graphics Organizer/Designer-Depending on the project and the level of your students, this person will collect images, maps, and other illustrations of the content or develop their own.
4. Director-Organizes all the text, documentation, and visual aides and develops a story board to be approved and completed by the team.
5. Editor-Edits grammar mistakes in the final product and checks for plagiarism issues.
6. Content Editor-Critically examines reliability of information in product and ensures all the key details are provided accurately.
7. Technician-Depending on the scale and complexity of the technology used in the project, one student may need to be the technical expert who brings a background in computers, AVI equipment, etc. and is responsible for any school equipment utilized and oversees use of technology in the project.
8. Producer-This is the instructor who may remain fairly hands off but should have checkpoints along the way--for instance seeing the story board and approving the production of the team. The instructor might also reject a production group's proposal outlining the specific areas that need improvement to be reconsidered.

Ideally, your students have had a chance in small ways to be these various roles on an ungraded or low stakes assignment. As a class, define the responsibilities of each role, like a job description, and the consequences for not doing the job. Be ready to answer these questions:
-Can the group fire members, and what happens then?
-How will the product be evaluated or is it their performance in their group that is evaluated?
-Do students get to form their own groups or will the instructor assign the groups?
-Will the instructor assign jobs to the students or does the group determine that?

Running production groups in your classroom takes a great deal of planning to truly be effective. However, students, particularly those who are not interested in history, will find the experience rewarding and engaging.

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